Mom Style: How to Start

Friday, October 11, 2013

Earlier this week, I stumbled upon this old Like Mother, Like Daughter post:  Five steps to feeling pretty after the baby.

And I immediately thought of Emily's recent post on the challenges of being a stay-at-home mom, where she lamented the fact that there's no reason to wear heels, and wearing "good" clothes is just asking for disaster to strike! 

And that, of course, reminded me of an old post of Jennifer Fulwiler's: The Apron: The Ultimate Symbol of a Culture of Life

I thought about how I've come to embrace dressing in skirts and dresses daily, and making an effort to put on makeup, and just how long it took me to realize that just because it's comfortable to wear yoga pants or leggings all day long doesn't mean that we're doing anyone a service by wearing that as a "mom uniform" (beyond those stages when anything goes - certain stages of pregnancy, post-partum, etc.).

So can we discuss some practical ways to make the switch from loungewear to real clothing?  After 3 pregnancies, I think that I've got this figured out to a certain extent - if I can get dressed and put on makeup every morning even with four young children underfoot, you can too!

This post contains affiliate links and referral links, which means I earn a small commission from your purchases.

1.  Clean out your closet!

Let's say you're making the switch from working mom to stay-at-home mom, and you just no longer have the need for all those skirts in suiting fabrics, or maybe those tailored button-down shirts have no hope of ever fastening over your new, more womanly figure. 

It's so hard to get rid of them.  After all, maybe you'll go back to work?  Or maybe they'll fit again once your baby is done nursing?  But I'll give you this advice:  Take stock of how your bones have moved - if it's just fat stores that are preventing certain clothing items from fitting and you can't bear to part from them, stick them in the back of the closet and try them on again in a few months.  But if your ribcage has expanded as much as mine has, you're going to have to face it:

There are some dresses you have that will never zip again.  And you don't need to keep them.

Donate them to the local thrift store, take them to a consignment shop, or try selling the nicer items to an online consignment store like ThredUp.  Just because it's in perfectly good condition doesn't mean that it has to stay in your closet - it's just taking up space and serving as a depressing reminder of how you used to look!

2.  Build a transitional wardrobe!

Let's just assume you're like me - you're pretty much constantly either pregnant or nursing.  It's almost impossible to keep up with the 12 different wardrobes you have - "normal" clothes that you're saving for when you're not pregnant or nursing (ha!), early pregnancy clothes, mid-late pregnancy clothes, larger post-partum clothes, post-partum clothes closer to your regular size, and all these things to fit different seasons!

What you need is to start shopping with this in mind:

- Is it nursing-friendly?

For me, it's just not worth buying if it's not nursing-friendly, because I'll never wear it. 

- Can I wear it for multiple stages?

Does it work for early pregnancy AND the post-partum stage?  Can you wear it all the way through a pregnancy?  Or will it only fit for those 6 weeks when I've lost all the pregnancy weight but haven't gotten pregnant again?

A slouchy sweater can easily disguise a pregnancy in the first trimester, disguise a post-partum pooch for any length of time, and is still big enough to fit a large pregnant belly - get one!

Other excellent transitional pieces:  Maxi dresses and skirts, high-waisted skirts, empire-waisted dresses that don't make you look pregnant just because you have a tiny pooch, cardigans of all shapes and sizes...

3.  Know your measurements!

Okay, your measurements might be changing constantly.  Mine sure are!  But I find that my natural waist returns to normal fairly quickly, so focusing on clothes that fit around the ribs and natural waist means I can get back in my "normal" clothes and stretch them into maternity more easily. 

AND knowing your measurements means that the inevitable online shopping will go a lot better - not every brand runs true-to-size, but you need to stop guessing, and measurements are the surest way! 

Get yourself a tape measure - my favorite is this MyoTape:

Tape Measure

4.  Build up your staples!

A denim skirt.  A shirt dress.  A wrap dress.  A maxi dress.  You know what you need to build a wardrobe that fits your personal style - find something that's good quality, not too fussy to wash, and can be used in multiple seasons.

My favorite maxi dress in the fall

And in the spring

5.  Accessorize!

Let's take this eShakti dress that could easy work in early pregnancy (that's me relaxing my stomach muscles.  I'm not pregnant.  Yikes.)

See, it hides the bump as long as you're not trying to accentuate it!

But the belt really helps the look.

Belt it, knot the shirt, add a scarf...  A few scarves are a fabulous addition to a mom wardrobe, since you can cover that newfound cleavage, have a makeshift nursing cover, a drool/burp rag, etc.

Go from this:

To this:

6.  Shoes matter, too!

I was scared of heels for quite some time after I had John Paul - my feet had grown and none of my old shoes fit, and those heels just weren't very comfortable anymore...

But there's so much more to shoes than my old staple pointed-toe pumps!  Wedges can be VERY comfortable, and add a bit more of a "grown-up" feel than sandals.  And if you're going to wear sandals, find something a little nicer than my old staple Old Navy flip flops, because I guarantee you that's what all the local middle school girls will be wearing!

See if you can find a good boot that you can dress up and down, a comfy flat that you can walk in, and whatever else you might think is worth buying. 

7.  Whatever happens, don't be afraid to return it!

If it doesn't fit, find time to go to the post office (or schedule a pickup, they DO that now and you can just leave it on your porch!) or the store and return it.  Do not leave that ill-fitting sweater in your closet just because you're too lazy to send it back (am I the only one who has done that?).

Are you ready?  It's time to stop being afraid to wear anything nice just because it might get dirty - clothes are meant to be worn!  Grab a few cute aprons (I wear one almost all day long when I'm at home...) to protect yourself from the inevitable, and get ready to look fabulous enough every day that you actually want to leave the house!

Linking up with Conversion Diary with my not-so-quick takes...  Because I'm up to 7 rules, and I might as well stop there, right?


  1. I am so fashion challenged. I love the belt over things look that so many people do but I'm afraid I would look so silly doing it!
    I'd love to hear people's thoughts on how they manage skirts in the winter. That sounds so pathetic but it gets so cold here and I chicken out and go for jeans and a sweater pretty much every day. I hate hate being cold but if I layer up enough to feel warm enough with a thick skirt and tights, I think I look frumpy which sort of defeats the purpose. But maybe other people have tips?

    1. I thought I would look silly, too! You never know until you try, and my fashion experiments have certainly had their fair share of failures...

      I'm just starting to navigate the winter skirt issue - it doesn't get *that* cold here in Virginia (especially compared to the winters in Chicago, where I went to school), so layering tights or leggings is usually plenty. I've heard really good things about fleece-lined leggings and sweater tights can actually keep things pretty warm! Adding boots and thick socks definitely helps a lot, too.

      I bet other people will have great tips!

    2. I like the belt over look things too, but I have such a hard time pulling it off because I'm always afraid that it makes me look pregnant or silly.

      I think a good pair of high boots are the key to wearing skirts in the winter. I'm not an expert, but tall boots adds a good bit of warmth to your legs and make a big difference.

    3. I think one trick to it is making sure it's either a thick belt or a thin belt - regular belts that can be used for pants tend to look silly belted high, at least for me...

    4. On cold days when I want to wear a skirt, I default to my tall boots with either sweater tights (bought several pairs a few years ago at LOFT and they might be a favorite wardrobe staple - sooo comfy!) or fleece-lined leggings (found at TJMaxx). I've even thrown a pair of tall boot socks over them to add an extra layer and a more "accessorized" look.

    5. Thank you! I guess I should probably invest in some of those nice tights, huh? And some less frumpish long skirts. It's tough to find them for shorties like me. And hemming isn't really something I want to make time for, you know?

    6. Yeah, I'm only 5'2" so I have a tough time too - that's why I like that Twice does measurements, and eShakti customizes to your height so you know it won't be too long.

      This pin shows the length in inches that you need for a knee-length hem:

      And shopping the junior section (as obnoxious as it may be) is also a good option, because the midi, maxi, and knee-length skirts tend to be the right length for the short crowd like us! You just might have to sift through the mini skirts, too ;)

  2. Great list!
    I'm still working on the skirt thing, but totally agree nice shoes and tops/sweaters give me a lift and most likely present a better image of how much I love my current vocation as SAHM. Can I tell you how thrilled I am that wedges and cute flats are in style!!

  3. I am now inspired to try on a maxi dress. I've been figuring that I couldn't pull one off because I'm so short, but hey, who knows....

    This is a great list, and very timely for me as I prepare for my first baby's arrival.

    1. I'm only 5'2"! Just look for petite or juniors sizing and you should be fine :) Seriously, all the comfort of yoga pants without looking like you forgot to get dressed!

  4. Uniqlo does some awesome lightweight scarves ("stoles") with prints from the designers they work with. Of course looking at their website right this minute I don't see any super compelling examples (although they are having a big ol' sale) -- but something to keep an eye on, scarf-wise. They're $13 full-price but I know I've bought them for ~$8 in the past. They are sort of big, which I like because they also work as a shoulder/head wrap.

  5. I need to find a nice belt that I can use for waist-nipping - you're totally right about how stupid the pants belt looks. And though you're short and hemming is a pain, at least you have the option. Tall girls have no recourse except praying. Don't get me started on sleeve lengths. I have orangutan arms and constantly push the sleeves up so I don't look like I outgrew something. :-P

    I'm glad that the first post you linked to mentioned the importance of color - I actually own the book she referenced (though I lent it to someone who hasn't given it back yet). I was so bummed my first pregnancy because all the maternity clothes were in winter colors, which kind of wash me out, but I didn't really have much choice (and, naturally, all the normal sized clothes were in autumn/spring colors). This time, of course the palettes for the maternity clothes were my colors, but I couldn't really buy any because....

    ...I have a hard time being able to justify spending money on myself for clothes when I have clothes that "fit" but my kids are outgrowing theirs and our budget only stretches so far. Last month I bought two pairs of shoes (at Payless, and one was on sale for $10) and they were the first pairs of shoes I'd bought in...well, I can't actually remember when the last time I bought myself shoes.

    1. Yeah I'm currently on a no-spend clothing allowance too :/ John Paul has reached the size where prices for boy clothes jumps up because he's not really wearing toddler clothes anymore and it's hard to find decent used clothes for boys, especially in larger sizes. I'm using Twice a lot and just returning a lot of things that don't fit. Can you trade in any of your old clothes that you don't wear anymore?

  6. When I first read this, I thought, wow it sounds like she's talking to me. And then I read it again and saw your introduction & link....and realized you were ;) Thanks for the shout-out (and helpful advice!!)

  7. Great tips! . . . . And can I just say my belly looks like the first shot of #5 too, if I let my stomach muscles relax? So, I appreciate your honesty there; it makes me feel better bc you look quite trim in all your other pictures!

    1. It's all about the angle! Plus that's why I make sure to keep my stomach muscles engaged - my first pregnancy I was so excited to "let it all hang out" that my stomach muscles were totally not used to work and it took QUITE a while to get rid of the pooch... Keeping them engaged throughout the other pregnancies helped me bounce back faster, although I think there's always going to be a little pooch!

  8. What a great list, thanks for sharing. Like thefelicitouslife said, thank you for sharing your "relaxed stomach" picture. It helped me also as I'm 13 months postpartum and still look about 4/5 months pregnant. Which is why I don't wear any dresses or skirts. Does wearing a wide belt hide the pooch or just create an upside down muffin top look?

    1. As long as you don't belt too tight, it helps hide I think - you have to find *just* the right spot to accentuate your waist, because if you go too high people think you're pregnant and if you go too low it doesn't create a waist at all!

  9. P.s. I hope you don't mind if I share these tips on my Food for Thought Round up tomorrow?

  10. This is the first time I've had to comment on this post though I read it on Friday! I LOVE this. I have been weeding through my wardrobe a lot lately but I feel like I just can't part with some things... despite the fact that they haven't fit since like... high school. Yikes. Time to cut the cord!

  11. Love this post. I'm pregnant with my third baby in four years, and I've finally realized that my "normal" clothes are probably just going to get very little wear from here on out. Everything new (well, as I basically only shop thrift these days, I should say "new to me") I get now is something I know I can wear in multiple stages - nursing, early pregnancy, postpartum. Thanks also for sharing all those links at the top. Can't wait to see what the other ladies have to say on these topics.

  12. Very cute outfits!


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